Who's in the race? A guide to the six candidates for Minneapolis mayor
image by Tatiana Craine
In the three months since R.T. Rybak announced he wouldn't seek a fourth term as mayor of Minneapolis, a full cast of characters has emerged to vie for his seat in City Hall. There are the three City Council Members with their history of competition and split votes. There's the sole non-DFL candidate (he is active in the Republican party, he explains, but not seeking any party endorsement in the non-partisan race). There's the handful of retired politicos coming back to throw their hats into the ring again, and the handful still mulling that hat-throwing while their names churn the rumor mill.
Like any good characters, these wannabe mayors also have their dramas. Sample: The Humphrey School of Public Affairs at the U of M hosted five of the declared candidates in a debate last Wednesday, but only allowed those gunning for DFL endorsement to participate -- a policy that shut out the aforementioned independent, Cam Winton.
That dispute means that tonight's 6:30 forum, hosted by the Minneapolis League of Women Voters at Solomon's Porch, is the first time all six so far-candidates will meet to spar (a seventh has filed, but stayed mum). Get some popcorn. Here's what you'll need to know.
- Gary Schiff files for mayoral run, kicks off with a fundraiser at Dangerous Man Brewing Co.
- Betsy Hodges names former DFL exec Andrew O'Leary as campaign manager for mayoral run
- Don Samuels announces bid for mayor
After serving as Hennepin County Commissioner for 16 years, from 1983 to 1999, Mark Andrew left the public sector to lead Greenmark, an environmental consulting firm that counts the Minnesota Twins and the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport among its clients. Three months ago, Andrew says, he didn't think he'd be running for mayor. What changed his mind? "I saw good people in the field," Andrew explains. "But I didn't see anybody who had the right skills."
Best zinger in the first debate: From his place at the end of the row of candidates: "It's a little unusual for me to be sitting at the far right of my colleagues." And later: "That stadium is going to be a jobs machine. As mayor it would be lunacy to want to preside over a hole in the ground. It is utterly inconsistent for anyone running for mayor to say they're for job creation and then say they're against stadiums because they don't want to subsidize a billionaire."
Where he lives: Southwest.
One success he wants voters to know about: "There are several things I'm most proud of. I'm not going to give you the recycling program, but I did create Minneapolis's recycling program. As a private business person, I also created the Minnesota Twins's rainwater recycling system at Target Field. But I think the thing I'm most proud of is that I am the person who put together the Midtown Greenway, and I was very deeply involved in its development. I put the coalition together, I bought the land, I worked with the park group and a neighborhood group called the Midtown Greenway Coalition. Nobody was able to put it together until I came up with the money."
Biggest surprise on the campaign trail so far: "How fundraising has changed. This is my sixth campaign, but I have not waged a campaign in over a decade, and the intensity of fundraising expectations is much greater. I always think fundraising has a corrosive effect on civil discourse. It takes away from constructive engagement with voters, and forces every candidate into basically shaking people down for money."
Prior to joining the Minneapolis City Council in 2001, Gary Schiff studied at the U of M and co-authored the 1997 city charter amendment that calls for a voter referendum before the city subsidizes a pro sports stadium. In his 12 years representing Ward 9 -- which includes the Phillips, Longfellow, Corcoran, and Powderhorn neighborhoods -- Schiff has advocated for regulatory reform and small businesses.
Biggest surprise on the campaign trail: "That I like it more than I thought I would. Running for mayor is different than running for City Council. I get to talk about the substantial issues that are holding back Minneapolis's greatness. The neighborhoods that I've represented on the City Council were hard hit by the foreclosure crisis, by the recession. People lost their homes and are now living in apartment buildings; people that were in apartment buildings are now living in shelters. As a City Council member I can talk about how to be part of a team that addresses those issues, but as mayor you can really focus attention on poverty and really focus attention on helping small businesses create jobs. That's what I like about the campaign, that I'm getting to talk about the issues that are really important."
His neighborhood: Corcoran.
One success he wants voters to know about: "Helping entrepreneurs open businesses by cutting regulations that would have prevented it. So when Jason Sowards [of Harriet Brewing] called me three years ago and wanted to open a microbrewery, we had rules on the books that made it impossible. The rules said, sure, you can make beer, as long as you also operate a restaurant, and you make sure that no more than 60 percent of your sales are in alcohol. In other words, you can make beer as long as you go out of business really quickly and lose your shirt. That's why Surly didn't open in Minneapolis, they opened in Brooklyn Center. That's why Fulton Beer started up in the Fulton neighborhood but operated their facility in Wisconsin. And so it took a year and a half, three rounds of changes to Minneapolis ordinances, and finally now Fulton moved back from Wisconsin, we have seven microbreweries, two more on the way, and it wasn't accomplished with subsidies, it wasn't done through corporate welfare, it was done through getting rid of rules that don't make sense anymore. We have to comprehensively reevaluate our rules on small businesses for the first time since 1963 and completely overhaul our regulatory codes to make it simpler and easier for businesses to grow in Minneapolis."
Attorney Cam Winton is active in the Republican party, but says that voters shouldn't pigeon-hole him. "I vigorously support marriage equality -- I co-hosted a fundraiser for the Vote No campaign and I work in the wind power industry," Winton explains. "Half of the time I drive around in a Prius with a Vote No sticker on it. I'm an open book."
One success he wants voters to know about: "My co-workers and I built a wind turbine management company with 120 employees. When we sold it in late 2012, we did the deal in a way where all 120 employees kept their jobs and all 120 employees received payouts on the equity that they had in the company."
Mayoral to-do list: "My first priority as mayor will be delivering essential services effectively. To me, those are police, fire, road paving and road clearing. They're the things that we take for granted until we really need them or until they don't work. There are a lot of things that need to happen to keep our streets safe, and one of those is more jobs, but another is to have a fully staffed police department. The benchmark for an American city of our size is to have 2.5 cops for every 1,000 citizens, and so we should have 975 cops. We only have 850."
Biggest surprise on the campaign trail: "Well, I'm saying this with a smile, but people share all kinds of information with you when you're a political candidate."
His neighborhood: Fulton.
Best zinger in the first debate: Winton was not included in last week's debate for candidates seeking DFL endorsement. "I fought to be on that stage. It was a lot of agreeing with each other, and that's alright, but the time is past for us to all be agreeing with each other."
Wayzata native Betsy Hodges started representing Ward 13 -- the southwest slice of the city that includes Fulton and Linden Hills -- as a City Council Member in 2005. Since then, she's made a name for herself in such roles as Chair of the Ways and Means/Budget Committee and as a vocal opponent of the Vikings Stadium deal.
Her neighborhood: Linden Hills.
Best zinger in the first debate: Discussing the city's funding commitment to the new Vikings Stadium: "I felt a little bit like Cassandra... when I was questioning whether the revenues would come in from the state side, and now we are seeing that that is a challenge."
One success she wants voters to know about: "My work on pension funds. It's not sexy until people hear that I saved them a $20 million property tax bill in 2012. It's one of those things that I persisted on for years. It's one of those things that you're never quite sure you're going to check off your to-do list. And we did. I became kind of a terrible cocktail party guest because I was talking about pensions."
Top of her mayoral priority list: "Job creation is really important, making sure that our kids are striving, making sure that our neighborhoods are safe, and unifying Minneapolis, with the goal of making Minneapolis the greatest city of the 21st century. Minneapolis has weathered the great recession better than almost any other city in the country, and we are reaping the benefits of the recovery sooner. People are ready to invest here, and we have things they're looking to invest in."
Jackie Cherryhomes kicked off her twelve-year run as Ward 5's City Council Member in 1989, and four years later moved up to City Council president. On her watch, the city purchased the Target Center and built Block E. She lost re-election in 2001, and in the decade-plus since, Cherryhomes has stayed busy running her lobbying and consulting business.
Biggest surprise on the campaign trail: "One of the surprises I've had is that throughout the city people are concerned about the health and well-being of North Minneapolis. I hadn't expected that level of concern and interest. People say things like, 'We know that there are problems and we need to figure out what to do. You know the neighborhood; what would you do?'"
One success she wants voters to know about: "I've had a body of work that lasts 35 years long, so it's hard to pick one. I think I would say the Heritage Park is the most noteworthy, because it involves community organizing, empowering women and minority-owned small businesses, and providing housing for a variety of people. It is the first and largest mixed-income project in the city of Minneapolis, and has Section 8 units, workplace units, and senior units. It's got the lifecycle of housing all in one place."
Her neighborhood: North.
Top on her mayoral priorities list: "Job creation, small business aid, and creating a strong economy. I plan on tackling those issues by identifying what jobs are out there -- what opportunities exist in the broader world -- and then matching those opportunities up with appropriate training in the community for people who are looking for employment. The second piece of it is working to reinstitute manufacturing opportunities in the city, and seeing how you bring clean manufacturing jobs in, because that's something that's not happening right now. The third part is working on building a strong downtown, because downtown should and could be a jobs generator for our city."
Don Samuels immigrated to the United States in 1970 for school, and in 2003, first joined the Minneapolis City Council. Now, the toy-inventor, divinity school-graduate, and North Minneapolis resident represents the fifth ward. "I arrived at age 20 in New York with $83 in my pocket," Samuels said at last week's debate. "43 years later, here I am asking you to consider me."
Biggest surprise on the campaign trail: "How many people who are traditional supporters of DFL candidates know multiple candidates who are running and have supported different ones in the past. This is going to be very tough for a lot of people."
One success he wants voters to know about: "Well I want them to know about my effectiveness as Chair of the Public Safety and Regulatory Services Committee, where the work affects the condition of properties and then indirectly blight and crime. There was reluctance to enforce the code, on the North side particularly. I think there might have been an unspoken sense that people needed a place to live. But I'm from the North side, and I know how my neighbors felt about having a deteriorating slum property with five-foot-tall grass and litter in the yards driving down our property values. And then we began to deal with the people on these premises. We closed eight convenience stores that were responsible for 2,500 police calls in their last year of functioning. In the following year there were 40 calls. I changed the culture of the department, and we got a lot of push back for it, but I basically was a human shield."
Top on his mayoral priorities list: "It will be the issue of education. We're going to have a serious conversation about how we get the average minority, low-income kid to geaduate routinely and what it will take. And once we find out, we will decide how to get to that. But we can no longer say we tried and it's not working and the kid has other issues in their life."
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you’ll never miss City Pages' biggest stories.